For movie watchers, few things can be more frustrating than films that begin with a sequence of immense promise, only to show over the remainder that the emperor truly wears no clothes. Two new examples come from the horror realm.
Until now, Ethan Hawke was having a wonderful year. Before Midnight, the third leg of his trilogy with director Richard Linklater and actress Julie Delpy, brought waves of critical acclaim and talk of another Oscar nomination for their collaborative screenplay, while The Purge turned a meager investment into a highly profitable box-office take.
Neither a chain of spice stores nor a Food Network program, The Seasoning House is a bleak-as-nuclear-winter thriller set during the Balkan conflict of the 1990s. A deaf girl named Angel (Brit teen Rosie Day) is taken from her home by soldiers who shoot her mother dead.
Paul Schrader’s The Canyons opens and closes with a montage of abandoned movie theaters. For this film in particular, that choice strikes one as symbolic in several ways: not only as a comment on the state of the industry, but on the state of The Canyons itself. You’re unlikely to find many 2013 films this empty.
What's a director of classic musicals doing in science fiction? Making Saturn 3, one of the worst of the genre Hollywood made in the immediate post-Star Wars / Alien era. Stanley Donen (Singin' in the Rain) takes to it about as well as you'd expect; he's in over his head.
Blackthorn 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 5:30 and 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday Oklahoma City Museum of Art 415 Couch okcmoa.com 236-3100 $5-$8
Early in “Blackthorn,” I had to smile when the line “I can’t trust someone with no name” was uttered. Immediately, it brought to mind Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name character from Sergio Leone’s “Dollars” trilogy — some of the best Westerns ever made. And “Blackthorn” is nothing if not a cinematic celebration of the once-vibrant genre, most notably 1969’s “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” for which this serves as an unofficial sequel.
You may not recall — because Paul Newman or Robert Redford were replaced with the lower-wattage Tom Berenger and William Katt — that “Butch Cassidy” begat another chapter in 1979, a prequel since its true-life characters had died.
How, then, does “Blackthorn” find a story to continue? Simple: Assume that Cassidy survived the standoff.
Screening Thursday through Sunday at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, “Blackthorn” assumes that Cassidy (Sam Shepard, “Fair Game”) has been living alone and incognito under the name James Blackthorn in a Bolivian village. Sensing his time on this earth is limited, the self-described “ordinary old bandit” longs to return to the United States.
He withdraws all his money from the bank and sets out on his horse … and promptly loses both. This unfortunate situation forces him to align with a Spanish engineer-turned-thief (Eduardo Noriega, “Vantage Point”); heavy reluctance is trumped by threats of ever-increasing danger.
Although flashbacks show Cassidy in his younger days (Nikolaj Coster- Waldau, TV’s “Game of Thrones”) with the Sundance Kid (Padraic Delaney, TV’s “The Tudors”), the film directed by Mateo Gil (screenwriter of “The Sea Inside”) is its own beast, confident in its own tone. In other words, don’t expect Burt Bacharach singles and bicycle rides. Expect bursts of gunfire and kitchen-table surgeries.
Moviegoers also can look forward to big-screen beauty. Shot lyrically and taking advantage of Bolivian scenery, “Blackthorn” is a Western that delights in welcome views of wide-open vistas, in the comforting sounds of horses’ hoofs on cracked desert floors.
It also has what so many old Westerns lacked: plot and a fantastic lead performance. Whereas John Wayne commanded a presence, his acting often was deficient.
Not so with Shepard, who arguably has been given his meatiest role since breaking the sound barrier as Chuck Yeager in 1983’s “The Right Stuff.” His Cassidy doesn’t think of himself as an adventure hero who delights in past treasures, but a simple man who values friendship above all else, especially with the golden-years benefit of hindsight: “I’ve been my own man — nothin’ richer than that.”